The man who ran over Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Virginia, ultimately killing her, during a counter-protest rally has been found guilty of first-degree murder.
As the Washington Examiner reports, a jury rejected James Alex Field Jr.’s claim that he acted in self-defense when he drove his vehicle into the counter-protesting crowd on August 12, 2017. His legal defense argued that Fields was “scared to death” by violence he witnessed earlier in the rally and drove into the crowd to flee the scene.
According to NBC News, the 21-year-old, self-identified neo-Nazi was convicted “five counts of aggravated malicious wounding, three counts of malicious wounding and one hit and run count for injuring dozens of others with his vehicle.” He also was reportedly charged with 30 federal hate crimes.
The Associated Press has more:
Fields, 21, drove to Virginia from his home in Maumee, Ohio, to support the white nationalists. As a large group of counterprotesters marched through Charlottesville singing and laughing, he stopped his car, backed up, then sped into the crowd, according to testimony from witnesses and video surveillance shown to jurors.
Prosecutors told the jury that Fields was angry after witnessing violent clashes between the two sides earlier in the day. The violence prompted police to shut down the rally before it even officially began.
Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal and civil rights activist, was killed, and nearly three dozen others were injured.
ABC News reports that when Fields returns to the court on Monday for his sentencing, he faces 20 years to life in prison. During the Monday hearing, Susan Bro, Heather Heyer’s mother, and eight other victims of the attack will provide testimonies. Here’s more:
The 10 charges Fields, 21, faced in this trial in the Charlottesville City Circuit Court are separate from the 30 federal charges he faces that relate to hate crimes. One of those federal charges is eligible for the death penalty. He entered a not guilty plea in both the Circuit Court case and to the federal charges.
The cases stem from Fields’ actions at the “Unite for the Right” rally in the Virginia town on Aug. 12, 2017. At the time, a group of white nationalists, which included neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members, descended onto Charlottesville, spurred by the city’s plans to remove a Confederate statue from a downtown park. Violence broke out as counter protesters clashed with white nationalists, prompting Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to declare a state of emergency.
NBC News reports that phone conversations Fields had with his mother after the incident were used as evidence in the conviction. In those calls, Fields spoke critically of Bro and said it did not matter that Heyer was killed:
A taped phone call from jail between Fields and his mother was also played for the court. In it, Fields is heard lashing out at Heyer’s mother, Susan Bro, calling her a “communist” and “anti-white supremacist” who was trying to slander him, according to the NBC 29.
When Fields’ mother said Bro had lost her daughter, Fields is heard saying that it “doesn’t matter” and called Bro “the enemy.” Prior to heading to the rally, Fields had texted his mother: “We’re not the one (sic) who needs to be careful” and included a meme of Hitler, NBC 29 reports.